Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Belly Up, by Stuart Gibbs

Theodore Roosevelt Fitzroy has had a great life so far. The only child of a primate biologist and a wildlife photographer, Teddy spent the first ten years of his life in Africa. His mother studied the gorillas of the Congo and his father photographed them. When civil war broke out, the family came back to the United States and found themselves working for and living at FunJungle, a new state-of-the-art zoo/conservation facility.

When the zoo's hippo mascot is discovered dead in its pool, bored and curious Teddy sneaks in to observe the autopsy. Unseen by the veterinarian and the zoo's administrator, he learns that the hippo's death is no accident and that the zoo is going to cover it up in the interest of preserving its image and bottom line. Teddy determines to investigate the hippo's death himself, but quickly realizes that there are those in the zoo who will do anything to protect their own secrets.

Written from the perspective of a twelve-year-old boy, introspection is kept to a low level while the action clips along at a good pace with an occasional lull to allow the reader to catch his/her breath and see if any clues are to be had in the text. Stuart Gibbs has put forth a good debut novel which conveys enough in its descriptions to make the reader pant along with Teddy in the Texas heat. Please beware there are a couple of instances with mild cuss words (a**, h***).

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